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Ignacio man sentenced to life in prison for wife’s murder

Heated exchanges occur in courtroom between convict and victim’s family

An Ignacio man with a history of domestic violence was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for the murder of his wife.

Damon Mathews, 45, will spend the rest of his life in prison for the killing of Rachel Ream, 47. At his sentencing hearing, family members described Ream as a kind and loving person who cared for those around her.

Mathews

They condemned Mathews for his actions, and two of Ream’s cousins said they wish he could receive the death penalty. There were several times that 6th Judicial District Judge Suzanne Carlson had to ask both Mathews and the victims not to interrupt each other.

Racquel Morgan Finch, Ream’s cousin, said “the world is dimmer without her (Ream) in it.”

She said that after Ream’s mother died, Ream raised her brother and sister, and later, after divorcing her previous husband, she took on the responsibility of raising his adult disabled son in addition to her other three children.

Joanne Ledford, another of Ream’s cousins, said, “We have a ‘beauty and the devil’ story here, except the devil killed the beauty in the end.”

She recited a handwritten speech that was dripping in contempt for Mathews. Ream’s children and future grandchildren needed her, but now they have to go along without their mother, Ledford said.

She called Mathews the “poster child for domestic violence and habitual offenders.”

Rachel Ream was found dead Jan. 1, 2021, in her Ignacio home. Her husband, Damon Mathews, was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder for her death. (Courtesy of Ream family)

Deputy District Attorney-Appellate Sean Murray said he did not know Ream, but everyone he interacted with throughout the case described her as “an angel on Earth.”

“I think we feel like we got justice for Rachel and the family,” he said after the hearing. “We’re really happy and appreciative of the jury taking a look at everything and getting the right result.”

He said domestic violence is a “pervasive problem” in society. He said domestic violence is tragic, because it happens despite resources being available, including at the District Attorney’s Office, Alternative Horizons, a 24-hour help hotline (970-247-9619) and other nonprofits that offer support services to survivors of abuse and their families.

“The more that people recognize there are safety outlets there like Alternative Horizons and protection orders, the more likely that something like this can be avoided,” he said.

Murray said people experiencing domestic violence shouldn’t hesitate to work with law enforcement and encouraged victims and survivors to reach out to Alternate Horizons.

Mathews said he understands and accepts the consequences delivered to him on Friday and that he also wishes he would be given the death penalty, although his defense attorney said at the start of the hearing that he intends to file an appeal.

When Mathews made his comments for the court, some of the audience members in support of Ream left the courtroom.

Based on court records and testimony, Mathews had two previous convictions for domestic violence and was facing a third charge when he strangled and shot his wife.

Mathews was previously arrested Nov. 24, 2020, for misdemeanor assault against Ream. At an advisement hearing, which Ream attended, the District Attorney’s Office requested a $1,500 bail, and District Judge Jeffrey Wilson agreed to that amount.

The District Attorney’s Office later increased charges to a felony, and Mathews was advised again, this time by Magistrate Sarah Law. The District Attorney’s Office did not request a bail increase, and the Magistrate Law transferred the $1,500 bail to Mathews’ new case.

Mathews was eventually able to post bail on Dec. 25.

On New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2020, Mathews killed Ream by shooting her once in the head.

In addition to his life sentence, Mathews received 16 years for third-degree assault against Ream, 18 months for violating bail conditions and one year in the La Plata County Jail for violating a protection order.

cburney@durangoherald.com

An earlier version of this story gave incorrect information about the bail amount set in Damon Mathews’ domestic violence case in November 2020. The 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office requested bail be set at $1,500 in the misdemeanor domestic violence case, and District Judge Jeffrey Wilson agreed to that amount. The District Attorney’s Office later increased the charge to a felony, and the $1,500 bail was transferred to the new charge. This story repeated errors made in a Jan. 6, 2021, story in which the District Attorney’s Office told the Herald it requested a $10,000 bail but the judge rejected it. The District Attorney’s Office gave the Herald incorrect information for that story, later citing a “breakdown in communication.”

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